Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Making a case for and against Todd McLellan

The pitchforks are out after the Oilers 0-2 start and a lot of the anger is being directed at Todd McLellan. There is a large portion of this fanbase that has completely soured on the veteran bench boss, and in a lot of fans’ minds, he needs to be fired.

McLellan has spent three full seasons coaching the team and in that time the Oilers have gone 114-109-23, and, as we all know, they’ve made the playoffs just once.

A pessimistic fan will say that it’s unacceptable for a coach who has Connor McDavid on his roster to miss the playoffs more often than not. Someone with a more favourable view of the coach might say that McLellan can coach what’s in front of him, and what’s been in front of him over the past few seasons has been depleted by a below-average General Manager.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The debate as to whether or not Todd McLellan should still be the Head Coach is red hot, so let’s take a closer look.


Nov 18, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the third period at American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Oilers 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

CONSISTENCY: We lived through the decade of darkness. We all hated the coaching carousel. From Quinn to Renney to Kruger to Eakins to Nelson, we should be at the point were another coaching change makes us sick.

Given how last season went, is anyone honestly convinced that a different coach would have produced a different result? I’m not sure that would have been the case.

Todd is a veteran coach who has been through a lot of tough stretches in his career. I’m not sure I’m convinced that there’s a better option out there.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

WHEN TO DO IT: A lot of people are saying that a poor October should spell the end of the line for McLellan, but I’m not sure that the Oilers season can be deemed “over” with a below average first month. A lot of the team’s opponents are from the Eastern Conference, and of them are from the Pacific Division.

November will be a much more crucial month. The teams last seven games are against Calgary, Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim, LA, Dallas, and LA once again. The Oilers, under McLellan, have played the Pacific Division very well going 36-17-5 over the past two seasons.

Todd should stay until this team gets the chance to play important divisional games.

THE ROSTER ISN’T GOOD: As I said, Todd can only coach what’s in front of him. Peter Chiarelli has depleted so much talent from this roster, and injury has taken a reliable defenseman in Andrej Sekera. McLellan can’t go out and just find skilled wingers and reliable defenseman.

All he can do is make the best with what he has, and most will agree that what he has simply isn’t very good.

THE MONEY: This point is going to rub a lot fans the wrong way but it is a legitimate consideration for the organization. McLellan has term and significant money left on his deal. It’s becoming known that money isn’t exactly free flowing around the organization. I’m not sure the higher ups would approve a firing of an expensive Head Coach.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

One way around this would be a promotion for either Gulutzan or Viveiros and an assumption that there’s no clause in their deal that increases their pay if named Head Coach.


Jan 12, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan looks on during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

SICK OF THE BLENDER: Fans are annoyed at how quickly McLellan will change up his lines. It hasn’t been bad yet this year, but again, it’s only been two games. I’m of the belief that it takes time for players to develop true chemistry with one another and when they’re constantly being shuffled around, it’s difficult for them to get comfortable.

SLOW STARTS = LACK OF MOTIVATION: At the NHL level, I don’t think it’s a coach’s responsibility to motivate his players. These guys are pros and they should be ready to go, from the second the puck drops, every single night.

Still, some fans use the continued slow starts as a knock on McLellan. I believe it’s unfair, but that’s just my opinion.

TODD’S GOLDEN BOYS: At times it appears as though players like Drake Caggiula, Milan Lucic, and Kris Russell can do no wrong. They can cost goals, turnover pucks, take bad penalties, and the coaching staff seems to just keep rolling them onto the ice.

While there are players like Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, and even Ryan Strome in my mind, can have two good games, have one mental lapse, and be punished for it.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I can see why this frustrates fans because you all watch the games. You can see how these players are performing and when the coach makes decisions that seem to be more personal based than performance-based it can be frustrating.


I laid out my case both for and against Todd McLellan, and I’m not sure where I sit. If the team only wins twice in October, I can’t see Todd surviving it. There’s a reason he is currently the betting odds favourite to be the first NHL Head Coach fired this season.

Looking at the schedule and seeing the bulk of Pacific Division opponents at the end of the month, I would like to see Todd stick around until after that stretch, no matter what.

If they start slow, but then beat the crap out of their own division, then they’re still in decent shape. If they turn things around before that, even better. But if they falter in October, then get beat up by their divisional opponents, then I would firmly say it’s time for Todd McLellan to be relieved of his duties.

What say you? Is any of this McLellan’s fault? Should they fire him now? Give him time? Let me know!

  • Teardrop082000

    He wasn’t fired only because of all the other past firings… The pp didn’t change at all last year… No movement nothing, same thing again and again with no results , that’s insanity. Lucic playing on mcdavids wing , how many wasted minutes ?? It was ridiculous thinking he’d workout… Lucic had a few points in the opener and a pp point but its safe to say that’s a fluke…. He looked better than last year but his decision making with the puck is generally horrible not to mention his terrible passing….how is he on the second line when puljujarvi is on the fourth? With no cap space oilers have to build from within … So how does puljujarvi on the fourth line help anything? Maybe he wants him to work to move up …. Hmmm so why was Lucic handed a spot on the top two lines last year when he was awful? The oilers don’t have 1 top nine actual winger on the team…ratti maybe?? Many of the oilers just don’t have any hockey sense… How many times would they back check into open space and not pick a man up? Simple hockey plays they can’t seem to do as a team? Larsson may be tough to play against but his stupid penalties make him seem brain dead…Oscar cant do anything else beside slapshots all the time…. Oilers must have the lowest IQ defensemen in the league, not one of them can change the angle of their shot to get the puck past a defender so its on the net.. Where are the tip in goals ? Last season I doubt they had 5 … This whole organization is a failure…. Can’t do anything with this team until the bad contracts are over and by then mcdavid will demand a trade and why not? The gm is the worst in hockey. Hall for Larsson? Couldn’t get a draft pick or anything else at all? Meanwhile what ever happened to the oilers 2,3,4,5 draft picks? The oilers have the worst scouts in all of hockey. Hopefully the coach will be gone by Christmas, the gm should be gone also….

  • Teardrop082000

    The gm and liberals have something in common… Chiarelli thinks you can build a better team by trading down all the time and the liberals think they can get out of deficit by spending more…

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Fire the coach NOW ffs. I know that’s not going to happen, but if things don’t turn around by the end of this month, definitely fire Todd McLellan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t stand to watch another game with him coaching…can’t wait for him to get fired! A fire hydrant could do a better job coaching, systems play, and assessing young players…like the handling of JP, especially. Stop letting him wreck our young players and give a coach that knows how to coach in this millennium a chance.

  • Ted

    POOR TODD … did Todd say sign Cagguila please sign Kassian please sign Klefboom please sign Benning please sign a great number one goalie like Talbot and surround the best player in hockey with mediocrity so we can suck! TODD this doing of a PLAN has crippled this team to an embarrassing judgement of hockey minds and of their PLAN … how can this PLAN put your job in a complete 911 … THIS JOKE HAS LASTED FAR TO LONG …. PLAN MY ASS! … Todd kiss your ass goodbye and be HAPPY you are no longer apart of such disfunction. Calling it as I see it! CENTURIES OF DARKNESS! BOOM

  • neojanus

    My take: I think Chiarelli is 70% culpable. His terrible trading record and awful contracts have left the Oilers paralyzed into using players that can’t get the job done. We don’t have a true 1 or 2 D-man. We just don’t. Our bottom 6 just take up clock time before McDavid comes back on the ice.

    Todd is also held accountable because his vision on this team is biased by his past. Saying that, assistant coaches don’t just sit on the bench and recite poetry. We have a whole new ensemble of voices and we are seeing similar issues to last year. Doesn’t that suggest the team itself is the issue?

    Back to the GM..

    The Oilers took a gamble with Chiarelli, who has been quoted as trying to build size. He did… and completely tied his hands when the league changed to speed (ironically what Lowe was trying to build a little earlier than the league).

    We can’t make any impact signings. We can’t win any trades unless we send out Draisaitl or… gulp… McDavid.

    At the same time, we have an ownership group and high-brass notoriously difficult to find for comment or showing much in the way of hockey sense.

    The problem is… Oilers.

    If it’s me, I fire Chiarelli after the 17/18 season and try to fix the damage done. Sadly, this isn’t a quick fix now unless a lock-out allows us to erase several errors without penalty.

  • ed from edmonton

    T MAc has been dealt a losing hand with this D core and will likely take the fall soon whether it is fair or not. My only real concern about TMac is the teams consistency at no shows. Last year once every two weeks, out money on it. This may not be only a coaching thing, but I suggest a good coach (or good manager) knows how to keep is people just enough on edge to not let them get too comfortable.

  • russ99a

    I find it hilarious that some fans think that firing McLellan would change the fact we run defensive and cycling systems. Every team in the league does this. It’s not going away.

  • Joeboot

    First, who ever proof reads needs to get fired.
    If I’m correct 5 of current D were on roster when Oil went into playoffs, now are more mature and experienced.
    Second, I agree about what appear to be favourites, vet players like Looch need to be better on the boards, 2 goals already against, he bears significant responsibility yet on 4×4 play he’s on the ice despite his often handling the puck like a grenade. MacT also played him early last year in OT and lost the game. To me clearly Yamo would be a better choice and build his confidence. Looch should be old and mature enough to work on confidence himself.
    Next, in SJ with MacT they often started very strong, why is that not happening here, team fragility, lack of confidence? After what was reported to be a very upbeat, fast paced camp, I was flabbergasted to see an uninspired effort in Sweden. Excuse was well it was overseas, it was for NJ as well.
    I was never on board with MacT hiring after the comments from Joe Thorten after MacT left SJ.
    For players to play at or above expectations they need to want to perform for the coach and that seems lacking. Last year it seemed when they wanted play they were as good as anyone.
    I don’t buy all this crap about only half the players being NHL quality.
    Has Chia made some colossal errors, yup, none bigger than the Reinhart debacle. Wonder how much the previous management has for input or veto power??
    I also think that MacT would have been fired except that his contract would cost team a lot of cash. Side note, I think coaches contracts being way more expensive than 4 years ago the coaching carousel will slow significantly.

  • CMG30

    The biggest issue i have with Tmac is the blender. Every coach is going to have blind spots to certain vets (not right but a new coach will just reorder those). At the end of the day a coach can only work with what he’s given and in the oilers case that’s been McDavid and not much else.

  • Orridol

    Let’s face it. A good coach develops a system with the available players’ strength and weaknesses in mind. If cutting 40 goals against is what will make our team more successful, the mandate is to improve/redefining the defensive system. This is more a question of team play, and not limitation of a defenceman, or a couple of forwards. T.Nelson’s philosophy of fitting system to players as always been more successful than Eakin’s fit players to my system. Why was Clare Drake so successful as a coach—and in different sports?